So, here’s a question…

So, here's a question for y'all. I've been reading a lot of the Fat Acceptance blogs lately (mostly Shapely Prose). I'm not entirely on board with the whole FA thing yet, although I think I want to be. I can certainly get behind the philosophy of HAES (Healthy at Every Size), and think fat folks should absolutely not be discriminated against, and am starting to believe BMI is pretty useless, and I'm sure that exercise is better for you than dieting (calorie restriction).

In my own life, I'm finding that although I did once diet and lost 15 pounds and kept it off for a few years (until I got pregnant), it was a miserable experience and I was hungry all the time, eating generally 1000 calories a day, which is just kind of insane. I'm trying to lose 30 pounds of pregnancy weight now, and am not dieting but just doing mild exercise (like walking) for at least twenty minutes a day, eating as much as feels right to me (what the FA folks call intuitive eating), and it feels so much better than dieting, I can't tell you. I get to eat what I want, when I want; when I'm hungry, I eat. And the exercise is giving me more energy and making me feel better. And I'm losing weight at the same rate as when I was dieting. I don't know if that'll continue, but right now, it feels great.

Okay, so with all of my confusion about my own 'fatness' in mind, here's the thing. Pre-pregnancy, especially in my twenties, I found tons of people attractive. Most of them, in fact, especially if I spent a little while talking to them and getting to know them. Even more so if they were evidently smart. If I thought they might actually be smarter than me, I pretty much jumped them right then and there. (I leave it to the reader to guess how many people that meant I ended up sleeping with. :-) The one exception back then was people who struck me as fat. And I can't say now what that weight or body fat percentage would be, for men or women -- I'm guessing somewhere above a 3X, but I'm just not sure. I didn't like the fact that I didn't find them attractive, but I didn't worry about it too much, because I was having enough trouble handling my attraction to all the other folks. (Poly only compounds that problem, in many ways.)

But now, I don't know whether it's hormones or what, but my sex drive has taken a nose dive, and I just don't find folks attractive anymore. Not people on the street, not cute guys and girls at cons, and most of the time, not my partner Kevin or my sweetie Jed. I can appreciate their looks in an aesthetic sense, but I don't get turned on nearly as quickly as I used to. I have to work at it now, get myself into the mood, think about how nice it might be to have sex (and gosh, doesn't that sound weak, compared to the barely-keeping-my-hands-off-this-guy-gal-I-really-shouldn't-touch-but-I'm-losing-my-mind of my younger days). Most of the time, reading a book or watching tv or even, god forbid, working (!) sounds more interesting and fun.

Now Kevin and Jed have been very patient, but the lack of sex definitely has been a strain on both relationships, and it's not like I don't like the sex once I get there -- I do, very much. So I've been making the effort to get there, and it's mostly working. Even if we do have to do things like schedule Wednesday night for sex. (Don't call me on Wednesday night, 'kay?)

So I think I can condition myself to find them, and others, attractive. Which makes me wonder about those people I thought were 'too fat' back in college? If I had made the effort then, would I have found them attractive too? Is it worth making that effort? Should I, for political reasons, to try to counter all the crazy media brainwashing around weight? (Not to mention skin color, straightness and length of hair, lack of body hair, etc.) Should I make the effort, just in case I'm missing out on a fabulous relationship for stupid reasons?

I'm not sure exactly what my question is here -- but it's something like: do you find a broad range of people attractive? Are there types you don't find attractive? Do you think it'd be worthwhile to find more people attractive? (Those of you in monogamous or polyfidelitous relationships may want to reframe the question for your once-single selves.) Do you think not finding 'fat' (whatever that means) attractive is a particular problem? And if you do want to recondition yourself, how would you go about it?

One exercise I read about recently is to try and think of at least one positive thing about the appearance of every person you see, no matter how minor. I wonder if that would help, over time.

15 thoughts on “So, here’s a question…”

  1. Thank you for sharing, Mary Anne 🙂

    To answer your question…man, I find I really go back and forth on it. There are phases (like summer 2005) when I am attracted to many people, and then there are phases (like now) when I’m pretty much only attracted to my partner, and maybe one or two others. I think it just really comes and goes in phases, and is dependent on things like circumstance and bodily disposition. For me, the number one determinant is How Well I Know Them. I only get sexually involved with someone if I have been friends with them for a long time, or otherwise have a special intense emotional connection.

    Though I’ve always identified as bisexual, I’ve started to question whether I’m attracted to women at all. In college I was crushing on girls all the time; then when I got out of college it was more a crush on Serena Williams…and now? Not anyone, really. But – another thing that I have faith comes and goes in phases.

  2. I’m right now using a bodybugg (http://www.bodybugg.com/). I absolutely agree with your conclusions — it isn’t what you eat (diets don’t work) and it isn’t exercise — it’s activity. I need to be active all day long in order to burn more than the calories I eat. While what I eat can make a difference in terms of the number of calories, as long as I’m active, I can burn them. What I’ve done is install workrave (workrave.org) on the PC and TimeOut on the Mac and I get up and move, exercise, jump rope, climb up to the third floor, do yoga, do the dishes, etc. every hour.

    As for attraction — I discovered that my lack of it was based on hormones. Once I got my hormones back into order, my sex drive came back. I don’t know if it’s the pregnancy that’s still messing with your hormones or not, but that might be part of it.

  3. hmmm… I know I have found fat folks attractive, but it depends on the person, too. Too many people are angry/defensive about their weight and don’t love themselves, so how can you like someone if they don’t like themselves? I also think that the FA has a point, but at the same time there are many people who are taking it too far. I bought a book of short stories at a library convention that was supposed to feature fat heroines. Unfortunately it felt too political when I started reading it, so I didn’t finish it.

    Having just come back from Europe, I am struck with many things about the US, including that the majority of Americans are chubby and the food here sucks. The portions are too large, and we don’t walk enough. My legs are cramping up here after two days of not walking to: museums, the market, cathedrals, castles, churches…or even getting lost on board ship!

    I think also feeling attractive will help boost your libido, but it could also be getting older, too. I know my libido isn’t racing around and flinging men up anymore… (its slightly embarassing to admit how long its been…but part of it is that I’m waiting for the right person)

    I know I’m attracted to smart people, well-dressed, etc. The way they carry themselves, and if they like themselves, is more important than their weight, although weight does play a part as well…

  4. Leah, I kind of resist the ‘calories-in/calories-out’ mentality of the bodybugg website, because I think it’s a lot more complicated than that — our bodies burn calories at different rates based on so many things (including calorie restriction!), that I’m just not sure how useful it is to even think in those terms, except in the broadest sense.

    I.e., yes, if I eat three burgers at every meal, I’ll probably gain weight, unless I exercise like a fiend to burn it off. But just eating 300 calories a day less than you were may not make you lose weight, because your body may just switch into more of a starvation mode. Frustrating!

    Anyway, I know you weren’t saying any of that, but the website irritated me, and I had to rant. 🙂

  5. I should add that while I hated calorie-counting, I do think it’s useful to do it for a week or two, because some things (like the calories in a cocktail, or a McDonald’s burger, can really surprise you with how insanely high they are). So calorie counting is good as a one-time re-calibration tool. But thinking about calories all the time makes me crazy!!!

  6. The one and ONLY person I was able to orgasm with happened to be very obese (I’ve had NUMEROUS partners by then).

    I haven’t been with him for 8 years, I have been with my Hubby who meets the model standards to a T (and it sickens me, I don’t like my Men like that, he was kind of overweight when I met him)for over 7 years and we have 2 kids together.

    No, I have as of yet been able to orgasm with him, I just can’t do it and it BOTHERS me!! No, I don’t have a fat fetish. Well, none that I know of, heck, now that I think of it, I might. Guys bigger than me make me feel prettier and sexier.

    Just be glad you can even orgasm with someone other than yourself or someone who verbally, mentally and physically abused the hell out of you.

    *siiighhh*

    I think I need to make some calls or get rid of this mental block for my Baby Daddy and try to make myself cum with him no matter HOW impossible it may seem..DAMN BRAIN!!!!

  7. I did that exercise once, trying to find something attractive about everyone, or as I thought of it at the time: if I were falling for this person, what would it be about their face/body/etc that made my heart race?

    Oddly enough, it’s not that hard, and I was doing it mostly because I was really angry at a lot of people. So I was finding lovely sweet hot things in people who pissed me off, and I kind of liked them better for it. (Having proved the concept, I quit and went back to hating them, because that’s what you do when you’re nineteen!)

  8. I’m new here, from Shapely Prose. Hope you don’t mind a comment from an Internet stranger.

    1. I absolutely, wholehearted, agree with Kate wrote.

    2. My experience:
    At some point late high school/early college, as I was feeling my way (figuratively) around the cosmos of sexuality, I had a thought. If I don’t think that I am attractive, why will anyone else.

    So I gave myself the mental challenge of finding everyone hottt. Men, women, old, young, fat, thin, conventionally attractive, those considered unattractive, tall, short, whatever. I gave everyone a shot. I was asking it of others – please oh please want me – so I found a way to want them, too.

    I am very lucky that I was a self-identified gay woman in the San Francisco Bay Area during my “formative” years. I had a lot of open-minded friends and partners who shaped me. Geographically, I was in exactly the right place.

    I did subsequently fall in love with a man, to whom I have been married for 9 years. There was a time when I wouldn’t have given him a second look; boy I’m glad that I did.

    No one I have ever dated or loved kept my attention because of their looks. It’s all brain for me. If you turn my head on, my body will follow.

  9. In terms of attraction, I have definitely had a major drop in sex drive with each of my kids, and the effect has lasted way longer than I expected – at least a year after I stopped breastfeeding. I’m still in that phase with the 3rd kidlet, and I am getting more than slightly annoyed. I am still hoping it will restore itself eventually!

    I have been playing mental games along the lines you are talking about – if I can’t obviously see something gorgeous about a person, I look for what is wrong with the clothes that they are wearing that are failing to draw my attention to the good bits. I have found it pretty effective in changing my views on people’s attractiveness (including my own). Sadly it hasn’t helped much with the libido.

  10. When I first started dating people I wanted desperately to believe that a person’s appearance didn’t matter at all. Over time I discovered that it did matter. I do find a wide range of people attractive, but I also find a wide range un-sexually-attractive (I may find them attractive in a non-sexual way, which is different) and I don’t fight that. My feelings always evolve one way or another as I get to know people, but I don’t try to create an attraction where it isn’t, nor do I try to un-create attractions that exist. I like to have a mental framework that allows for attractions that are openly acknowledged but not necessarily acted upon, because that feels honest and easiest to me. Among other things it makes it possible to tell people that I find them attractive without any expectation of reciprocity or sexual contact. In turn, telling people that I find them attractive (especially people who don’t hear it often) combats more limited understandings of beauty.

    I do make a point of trying to be aware of the times when I am judging someone based on their appearance. That awareness, while not necessarily generating a sexual response in me, does open doors to friendship and affection that I might otherwise have shut.

  11. When I was younger fat men repulsed me. I only when for an aesthetically pleasing man. I would even joke about dumping a man if he got fat. As I entered my thirties, my husband began packing on the pounds(180-220). I still find him hot and sexy.

    I also discovered that fat comedians turn me on. It all boils down to personality now that I’m older. If you can make me smile, I feel good in general. If you are making me happy, I am more likely to find the person attractive. It is funny how perspectives change as you mature!

  12. Just another comment on the spectrum: One, I find that physical attractiveness is just one element. In fact, I’ve had great sex with guys who aren’t particularly hottt with the lights on, and surprisingly bad sex with guys who I found completely HOT. I actually think this is somewhat normal, that hot guys don’t learn how to uh, finish the job.

    Which reminds me of another point, and it’s stupidly self-help-sounding, but still deeply profound to me: We like people based on how they make US feel. Maybe you feel smarter by hanging out with someone smart, or maybe you think of the smart kids you’ll raise, or maybe you’re honored by their taking notice of you, I don’t know. But, yeah, arrogance is a libido killer.

    And, so is stress and overwork. For much the same reason. If I’m too worried about all the things I have to do to relax, NO ONE is going to turn me on. If I’m basically happy, I’ll fall in love with whoever I’m with. intellectually I know the difference between correlation and causation, but emotionally I think “I’m happy; I’m with this person; this person is causing happiness.”

  13. I have been thinking about this, and I cannot seem to come up with any general observations. I am more easily turned off by “too thin” than by “too fat” but I have been attracted to women who would be described either of these ways on occasion. I also tend to be more attracted by someone after I get to know her. It is rare for me to feel strong attraction at first meeting of someone new. But, again, this has happened a few times. As others have noted, intelligence is a big factor, as is compatibility of views. I have only once in my adult life been attracted to a political conservative. I have been attracted to female mathematicians from time to time, but acting on that seems to be a taboo, in my experience. (Or maybe the colleagues in question just weren’t interested in me.)

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